Where is the line between ACTING and LIVING? There's a well-known story about Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier. In preparation for a difficult scene, Hoffman hadn't slept for a few days. Olivier asked him why he was putting himself through such an ordeal. Hoffman said that he wanted to be convincing in the role. Olivier replied, "Try ACTING dear boy". Many actors feel the need to live every experience that their character is going through. But, Acting is really more about being able to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances. Do your homework of course. Investigate the life of your character. Research who they are, where they've lived, and what they want. Ultimately, though, using your imagination and preparing your character will do the job. And, it will save you from unnecessary pain and sleepless nights!
Mastering the nuances of each Vowel can revolutionize your vocal technique! Each Vowel has a distinct shape when sung. The long EE sound, as in "geese," is known as a Close Front Vowel. It feels as though it buzzes forward in the face, and the tongue is arched high in the back. This diminishes the space in the back of the mouth. Conversely, the "AH" vowel sound, as in "hot," is categorized as an Open Back vowel. You can feel why - the tongue drops and creates more mouth space. Plus, the resonance seems to retreat more into the back of the mouth. Practice FEELING the difference between these two very different vowels. Pay close attention to how the internal shape of your mouth changes the sounds you create as you work through all your vowels!
Practice the PROCESS - not the product! Everyday we are new and different human beings. Our bodies and minds shift slightly. So do our voices. It's part of the beauty of being human. This is the same reason that delivering a perfect performance is an impossible challenge. Even if you ever gave one, it would need to change immediately. So, when you're feeling down before a show or audition, keep in mind that the process is always more beautiful than the product. Strive for your ideal performance, but remember that true art is created in the soulful and audacious efforts you give each day. Falling slightly short may be the very thing that makes you a lovable performer... and lovable human being.
Happy 4th of July to all of our USA singers! Did you know that the tune for the American National Anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," was originally written for a British gentlemen's club called the Anacreontic Society? The melody has a range of an octave and one fifth. That's a pretty big range for many singers to navigate! If you're having trouble hitting those high notes at the end, be sure you're starting the first phrase in a very low range for your voice. There's a long way to go before you reach the top! But, never forget that all great nations and all great singers start in low and humble places before they reach their greatest heights! This Independence Day, let freedom (and your voice) RING!
Do you have EYES in the back of your head? No. You can only see what's in front of you! Yet, for your singing life it would really be great if you had eyes back there. Because if you did, you'd be more aware of the back of your neck. The muscles at the back of the neck include the trapezius, the occipital, and capitus muscles. These muscles tend to tighten during singing. This causes the back of the neck to shorten, the chin to thrust forward, and the head to lift upwards. All of these tendencies result in unwanted pressure on the larynx and can be a huge hindrance on vocal freedom. So, while you may not have eyes in the back of the head, pay attention back there anyway. It's bound to be a real eye-opener!
Do you FEEL your voice? If so, you are experiencing Conductive Vibrations. Conductive Vibrations are the sensations that we feel in our chests, our heads, and in different parts of our faces. These vibrations help guide us as to what register we are singing in and what position our larynx is located. Chest vibrations usually correspond with Chest Voice and also lower larynx positions. Head vibrations usually correspond with Head Voice and higher larynx positions. What the audience hears is called Sympathetic Resonance. That happens when sound waves go zinging around inside your head. They can't hear your Conductive Vibrations. But, you can use Conductive Vibrations to FEEL your way to your best singing!
Experiencing too much Vocal Fry? Solve it with breath flow! You may notice that when you arrive at the end of your sentences, the last word or syllable ends in Vocal Fry. Often, we unintentionally "give up" as the energy of the sentence wanes. Confident speakers, though, carry the momentum of the exhale PAST the end of the sentence! Say: "I have a cockatiel in Wyoming." Many people will notice some Vocal Fry toward the end of "Wyoming." Now try: "I have a cockatiel in Wyoming and one in Iowa." Notice that the Vocal Fry doesn't occur until "Iowa". Practice blowing out a little extra air during the last word so that you don't hear a "crackle". While Vocal Fry can be an effective tool in singing and voiceover work, it doesn't need to be an everyday part of your speaking voice. Keep on breathing out!
What makes a style a STYLE? This can be confusing when there are countless styles, sub-styles, and fusions of styles. A great listening exercise is to find a classic song that has been covered over many decades by many artists in many styles. Listen to at least 7 recordings of the song you choose. Compare the way various singers use their voices. Does each singer stick to the original melody? Are changes made to the phrasing, rhythm, or lyrics? What key is the song performed in? Which vocal registers are used? Does each singer use a wide range of dynamics? What about legato, staccato, or other musical devices? These questions can get you started on a path to really understanding the nuances of vocal style. Once you become aware of these nuances, you'll find it surprisingly easy to add new tricks that help make your style YOUR style!
You've probably heard a number of different opinions on LARYNX POSITION during singing. Modern voice teachers often scoff at the idea of a lower larynx, encouraging singers to keep it neutral or reap the stylistic benefits of raising it. On the other hand, traditional teachers are often appalled at the idea of high larynx and prefer low larynx at all costs. Who is right? Both! The ability to manipulate your larynx position is among the most important aspects of vocal versatility. Just remember - when lowering the larynx, think of relaxing your throat open, instead of pushing and forcing your larynx down. And when allowing it to sit higher, make sure it's not because you're straining for higher pitches. Rather, make it an intentional choice for style or acoustics. It's your instrument. Why not do it all?
Listening too closely to ourselves can lead to timid or restricted sounds. One trick to combat this tendency is "CALL HANDS". Place both hands at the corners of your lips, firmly against your face, with no space between fingers - just like the gesture we use when calling across a distance. Try singing your songs or exercises with Call Hands in place. What do you notice? Does it change the way you perceive your sound? Does the volume seem different? Is the tone altered in some way? Did it change the sensations or enhance how you feel the vibrations? With Call Hands in place, sound has further to travel to reach the ears. This usually leads to less judgment and timidity. Use this trick to stop listening and judging. Instead, start FEELING how great your voice really is!
What's a "Melisma"? A Melisma is a group of notes all sung on the SAME syllable. We see Melismas in many musical styles - from art songs to pop riffs. Surprisingly, singing multiple notes on ONE syllable requires a lot more precision and technique than singing multiple syllables. Practice Melismas by first repeating your primary syllable on each note. For example, if you sing the word "no" over five notes, then sing "no no no no no." Next, try grouping just TWO of the notes together. Did your vowel change between those notes? Did one particular note feel better than the other? Did losing the starting consonant affect your technique? Make adjustments in order to maintain consistent technique across the entire Melisma. Then, keep grouping more and more notes together until you're singing your full Melisma like a pro!
VOCAL REGISTRATION! Is this a "fancy vocal term" or a concept that's unfamiliar to you? It doesn't have to be! Vocal Registers are merely shifts in the function of the vocal cords, the vocal muscles, and the resonance of the sound as you move across your range. Each Vocal Register will FEEL a bit different to you. Pay attention while you do your vocal exercises. What sensations do you notice as you move through registers like Vocal Fry, Chest Voice, Mixed Voice, Head Voice, Falsetto, and even Whistle? Identifying and remembering your registers PHYSICALLY will help you to blend them seamlessly and also incorporate them into your songs. CONGRATS! You've just become a better singer AND you know another fancy vocal term!
Vocal Tension CHECKLIST! Are my neck muscles calm when I sing? Check! Are my shoulders and collarbone staying still with my inhalation? Check! Does my chest remain tall as I sing through my exhalation? Check! Is my jaw staying back and is my tongue staying high as I sing? Double Check! Is my larynx staying in the position that I've chosen for my stylistic needs? Check! Are my vocal folds finding a balance between compression and decompression? Check! If any of these things aren't happening, then you should CHECK right away! But, if you've mastered this Checklist, then get ready for your very best singing. Just remember to bring the Soul. CHECK!!!
Everyone knows that certain songs are unfailing crowd-pleasers. You sing one line and the whole room joins you. It's helpful to have songs like this in your repertoire to pull out on a whim. However, don't limit yourself to crowd favorites! You should be able to perform not only sure-fire hits, but lesser known melodies as well. When you sing a piece that's unfamiliar to the listener, they won't be distracted by wanting to join in and can focus their attention on the singing itself! Your audiences will become even more interested in your performances simply due to the VARIETY of your repertoire alone. You may also introduce them to a new artist or style of music in the process. This is a crowd-pleaser in itself!
Most of the time we think that vocal injuries only happen to those with poor vocal technique. But, sometimes accidents do happen. Just like a baseball player catching the bag the wrong way on a slide, even a brief misuse of the folds can sometimes result in injury. No need to panic though! The vocal cords are remarkably resilient and most damage can be fully healed or repaired. However, be sure when you practice you're not pushing yourself in a way that feels overly aggressive. Especially when experimenting with new sounds, noises, or voices - always ease into the work and pay attention to what your throat is telling you. The best rule of thumb is - if it hurts, stop! Accidents can happen to even the best of singers. But, you'll be setting yourself up for the slimmest possible chances by practicing in a very mindful way.